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The 8 Cairnwells-kissing a frog and what to do with a prince

The 8 Cairnwells-kissing a frog and what to do with a prince


Postby Mountainlove » Tue Sep 11, 2012 3:45 pm

Munros included on this walk: An Socach (Braemar), Beinn Iutharn Mhor, Carn a'Gheoidh, Carn an Righ, Carn Aosda, Carn Bhac, Glas Tulaichean, The Cairnwell

Date walked: 08/09/2012

Time taken: 17.5 hours

Distance: 38.5 km

Ascent: 3161m

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In January like many others, I made some new years resolutions...Not very often, I do actually remember the resolutions ...even less likely in September, but one of them was to walk a route with a backpack and camp wild somewhere.It does sound very easy and I have read many trip reports about it...but to pick a nearly 40k route over pathless terrain, with a heavy backpack to carry was maybe slightly pushing it… :crazy: :crazy: :crazy:


On a not so sunny Saturday morning, I left the west coast to enter new terrain-the bottom part of the Cairngorms. After a 3.5 h drive (which included a stop of Tiso on the way) I arrived in glorious sunshine at the Glen Shee ski area car park. It was my first time to this area and I loved it. I parked my car and lifted my 14 kilo (about 2 stone) backpack out of the car. I had repacked it a few times, but the following items I packed were spot on...

What to take for an overnight wild camping trip..

Portable coffin (my rather tiny but light 960g tent), sleeping bag, self inflatable roll mat (heavier than a foam one, but the comfort level is so much better!) fleece blanket (great to roll your feet into when you are cold) or you can use it as a pillow, or cover for eyes when it gets too light, spare set of trousers and t-shirt (double acting as PJs), socks and underwear, tooth brush, soap, face cloth and small hiking towel, deodorant, head torch, reading material (light book), GPS, camera, mobile phone, ipod, water purification tablets, ibuprofen, 2 liters of water (one bottle would have been enough) print out map, compass (in case GPS failure) food, fleece, rain jacket, gaiters, bin bag (to store backpack overnight and to collect rubbish afterwards), walking poles.

What I wished I had
Little stove for making a cup of tea (its on the wish list now) :)

The route
Route taken.jpg


To make it a bit easier I decided the route into 5 sections

Part 1
Cairnwell - Carn a Gheoidh
Part 1.jpg

The climb up the Cairnwell is pretty easy even with a heavy backpack when you are fresh and rested. I did it in my usual style ...straight up and the views from the top were...mmm ...not the best, but knowing what’s in front of me I did not mind and set off towards Carn a Gheoidh. That part of the walk was surprisingly easy as there is not much height gain or loss between those 2 Munros. Some pretty views towards Loch Vrotachan and some smaller lochs on the way made it a pleasant walk. Although the distance was a lot longer than I expected, mainly because of the peak Carn nan Sac, it is pretty easy going and a great motivation for the start. Carn a Gheoidh the second Munro on the way did not impress me either, but a rather pleasant surprise was the peak of Carn Bhinnein. Even though it is not a Munro it was my favourite on the whole walk. On top of it was a wee cairn and I decided to have my first proper break. After a few minutes I became aware of a rather unpleasant acid smell. Thinking the worst, that someone might have used the cairn as a toilet, I looked around but could not see anything...but the smell was just overpowering when you crouched down. Strangely my noise seemed to recognize the smell and finally it hit me...bird poo! Mmm not that nice, but moving my nose into the wind, soon solved the problem.

The views towards me were daunting, as I realized I would have to drop down to the valley in order to climb up the next mountain Glas Tulaichean. On my way down, looking to my right, the hill seemed to drop steeply ...far to steep to walk down, so I continued to walk ahead. Suddenly in the distance I saw the greatest herd of deer and stags I have ever seen in my life. It actually felt like watching a great migration in Africa, but instead about 200 deer run across the hill site in bonny Scotland...simply amazing!
Continuing the walk, my amazement came to an abrupt halt when saw an impressive rock combination and a very very steep gully right in front of me...far too steep to walk down. Mmm. I walked back and towards my right and suddenly stood on the top of a cliff face...argh even steeper.!
As the mountain seemed to be impossible steep all around, the only way down seemed to be the gully. I walked back to it and looked down...urgh! It was something I climbed up before...but never down. I took the first steps and yes it was difficult. The weight of my backpack pushed me down and sliding down on my bum was not really an option because of the pack...literally inching my way down, I did not liked it one bit, but at the end I made it down in one piece. Looking back, the mountain was towering above me (and yes the grassy slopes would have probably been easier.)

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The sunny start

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The steep way up

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Towards Glas Tulaichean

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the herd

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I am guessing there were about 200 animals

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The gully


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The lovely Carn Bhinnein


Part 2
Glas Tulaichean - and finding a spot to camp
Part 2.jpg

But now the task was to climb up Glas Tulaichean...walking slowly up the grassy slopes my legs started to complain and for the first time I realized I might not make my plan to climb 5 Munros on the first day. :(
Looking down I saw a rather large frog and the thought to kiss it cross my mind...arent they supposed to turn into a prince?? Mmm but would be be able to carry me and my backpack up the hill???) :D :D
Maybe I would get a knight in shining armour riding on his horse towards me? Mmm but how would I be able to kick him off the horse and use it for transportation instead? 8) Could I leave the knight in shining amour to carry my backpack? :wink: The thought of a moaning prince and a rusty knight left on the hills, were just to much to bear and so I decided to spare the frog lol. :lol: :lol: :lol:

I walked on,but hours seemed to have passed and with legs burning I finally reached the top of Glas Tulaichean . Drinking some water and having some bread I looked towards Carn an Righ. Another down hill walk lay in front of me , although this time slightly less steep. Not stopping for long, I made my way down. My knees started to feel the weight of the backpack and I started to feel the 6.5 h I had walked. Usually that time does not bother me, but carrying a backpack is a different story. By the time I reached the rather lovely burn close to Gleann Mor, I had made up my mind- I needed sleep and with only an hour of daylight left, I decided to call it a day.
I collapsed on the ground and decided to put my tent up there and then. The last few midges tried to challenge my position, but the wind was merciful and blew them away. Eating some cold fried rice (tasted as it sounds) and some chocolate (much better), I rinsed the dinner away with some cold burn water and after a quick face wash and brushing my teeth I settled in my tent and by 8:20 I was fast asleep.

DSC02464.JPG
me

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The frog

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Carn an Righ

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My portable coffin ehm tent

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the way back down after the clouds started to lift


Part 3
Carn an Righ - Beinn lutharn Mhor
Part 3.jpg

I woke up after an 11h kip, feeling pretty refreshed. I had planned to have a quick wash, but low level clouds and a strong wind made me change my plans (one plus point of walking solo...you can be as smelly as you like) Getting dressed quickly (quite a task in a tiny tent) I packed my gear, had one of my self-made muesli bars for breakfast (yummy) and continued the walk up Carn an Righ.
Pain sweet pain...my legs, knees, feet and lots of other parts of my body which never get sore started to complain. Time to take some ibuprofen, which I luckily remembered to bring. To walk up a mountain first thing in the morning is definitely not my preferred way to start the day...huffing and puffing I reached the top and was greeted by some thick clouds :-(
But the weather god was showing its mercy side again and by the time I walked down I was able to see my surroundings. Following my GPS at the time I soon saw Beinn lutharn Mhor. Its left side seemed to be rather rocky with a more gentle approach on the right. Taking a wild guess (and combining scuba diving knowledge that the land site will reflect how it looks under water) I hoped I would be right to walk down Carn an Righ on its right side. I was correct and made my way down to the valley and started the climb up lutharn Mhor. On the top I was greeted by some sheep which must have been the first sheep above the clouds I have ever seen. Some peaks were also poking out of the clouds in the distance- sweet!
Not so sweet was the view which was in front of me...yet another steep downhill climb (did not thought the gully from the previous day could be equalled, but that one did it) and endless fields of heather and bog stretched before my eyes.

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Beinn lutharn Mhor

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sheep above the clouds

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along the top

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Heather fields forever - towards Carn Bhac


Part 4
Carn Bhac - An Socach
Part 4.jpg

Looking around and at the time beyond caring, I made my way down the steep grassy slope. The thought of just rolling my backpack down the hill was rather tempting at the time!
I reached the bottom and the ‘Heather fields forever', I had hoped to find some kind of path, but at the time I could not see any. In fact since the previous afternoon, I did not see a single soul. The only sound which seemed to interrupt the quietness around me, were the shouts of some brown birds which I could not identify and which shoot up from the heather , making their strange cries, before flying away.
The walk through thick heather and bog was mind numbing. I was actually quite startled when I saw a lone figure walking towards me...we did not cross paths, but I waved as I moved along.

After which seemed hours (probably was) I reached the top of Carn Bhac. Another Munro which I was not very impressed with. Strong 40mph winds did not left me lingering and I made my way towards An Socach. The same approach over endless heather and boggy fields and even though I never minded walking over heather before, this was pushing me to my limits of endurance.
When I finally reached the bottom of An Socach I had reached my limit. I was fed up, tired, knackered and the only way up seemed to be the steep face of it. My inner grumpy git was moaning profoundly, but there was no other way out. I rested at the bottom and chanted 'you can do it, you can do it' ignoring the complains which my body made.

I made my way up the steep path...the only way to do it was by picking up little marks, walking towards them, resting when I reached them and redo the process until I reached the top. My legs were on fire, my heart was racing, I was shattered but I was happy that I made it. The clag was all around me at the time and a strong wind made me shiver...time to put my waterproof jacket on. I reached the cairn and 30m visibility made me reach for my GPS before I continued the walk.

Walking ahead I was thrown around by the gale force winds. It had started raining and needle like rain drops hit my exposed skin...but strangely the flat surface on the top gave me some strength back and I was close to dancing, when I saw a path leading down the hill...sweet dear path!!! The walk down was so easy in comparison to what I had to endure before. By the time I reached the bottom I was feeling positive again, yet again managed to battle the voices inside my head who were telling me to give up….
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An Socach

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The lovely path


Part 5
Loch Vrotachan -Carn Aosda
Part 5.jpg

By the time I reached yet another wee burn I had to cross I saw a lovely wee bridge (the first one) I encountered during my walk. I crossed it but my good mood did not lasted on my walk towards towards Loch Vrotachan.

I was in an all over pain…my shoulders hurt, my hips were in agony, my feet were killing me and at the time it was only will force which lead me on. A short distance on the map can take ages at that stage and again I was in heather and bog terrain. When I finally reached the loch I had decided enough is enough….who cares about the last Munro, I wanted to get back to the car.
As soon as I made that decision a thick fog started to creep towards me (punishment for my thoughts?) It got thicker and thicker and suddenly I heard someone whistling. I stood still, but apart from thick fog I could not see anything. The thought of deer hunters crossed my mind…OMG…deer stalking season!!!! Were they making that sound, to attract deer? They certainly attract me, as I was strangely drawn to the noise. Stories of people being shot (mistaken in the fog for deer) crossed my mind and warily I stood still listening. All past pain was forgotten and the only thought which occupied my mind was that of mad deer hunter stalking through the fog. But what to do? Shout? Make loud noises?
I moved on, slightly freaking out when the whistling changed into a high pitch sound. A shape appeared out of the fog, tall and huge and I was confronted with the metal ski lifts.
OMG the mad deer hunters were in fact the wind blowing through the metal wires, making the sound I heard since the past half an hour.

Relieved beyond belief – feeling rather foolish I walked on and soon reached a wide path…sweet Jesus a path out of this!
Checking my height I realized I was only 100m away from the top and this lovely huge path would lead me to it….all plans to abdomen the last hill were forgotten and 20min later I reached the top…well bad visibility made it a challenge to find the cairn, but when I found and realized I actually made it I had to shed a tear of joy.
The walk from there was easy and how much I loved the mountain for it…I walked down the ski slopes, between 2 long fences…no chance of getting lost here and soon saw the ski café and rescue post…quite a different from the previous day in glorious sunshine. Another 5 min walk down the hill and I was reunited with my car…is there a more lovely view??? At that time I could have kissed it!
DSC02555.JPG
The ski rescue center and cafe
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby rocket-ron » Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:09 pm

Intresting report as always mountainlove :)
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby pollyh33 » Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:22 pm

You're an awesome girl ML!!!!

That is some walk or should I say walks :lol: :lol:

Love the pictures of the deer. Seeing those deer was the one thing that cheered up my daughter when we did the very conservative Cairnwell 3. :lol:

Well done for managing 11 hrs sleep in a tent- you must have been shattered :crazy: :crazy:

And I have to ask what was the first thing you ate when you got back to civilisation???? :?: :?:
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby monty » Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:03 pm

Great report ML. Thats an unusual choice for a round of munros but a good one. It always tougher carrying overnight kit. Bet you had your make up with you didnt you :lol: :lol:
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby dogplodder » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:30 pm

That made gripping reading - especially the last bit about the phantom whistling deer hunters! :twisted: Things can play on your mind when exhausted in a way they wouldn't normally. Great achievement to do this lot carrying all your stuff! :clap:
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby davedanson28 » Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:13 pm

Well done you, great report and cracking photos! :clap:
Camping is ace, especially in the wilds! :D
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby 147cjl » Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:03 pm

that is some walk ML :clap: kind of glad i missed out :lol: quality sheep picture though!
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby Mountainlove » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:15 am

rocket-ron wrote:Intresting report as always mountainlove :)

Many thanks!

pollyh33 wrote:You're an awesome girl ML!!!!
That is some walk or should I say walks :lol: :lol:
Love the pictures of the deer. Seeing those deer was the one thing that cheered up my daughter when we did the very conservative Cairnwell 3. :lol:
Well done for managing 11 hrs sleep in a tent- you must have been shattered :crazy: :crazy:
And I have to ask what was the first thing you ate when you got back to civilisation???? :?: :?:

Many thanks Polly..the deer were amazing...never thought they exist in such large numbers..did you see the same size of herd? 11h in a tent yeah that was a first- saying that I usually sleep really well ina tent (but never the first night) The first thing I ate...lol half a bag of vanilla fudge in the car :lol: :lol:

monty wrote:Great report ML. Thats an unusual choice for a round of munros but a good one. It always tougher carrying overnight kit. Bet you had your make up with you didnt you :lol: :lol:

Make up... 8) I have to say I was concidering at least some mascara...but the deer and rabbits (when they see me) are so unappreciative these days :lol: :lol:

dogplodder wrote:That made gripping reading - especially the last bit about the phantom whistling deer hunters! :twisted: Things can play on your mind when exhausted in a way they wouldn't normally. Great achievement to do this lot carrying all your stuff! :clap:

I actually thought I was loosing it at that time :roll: fog- strange noises- its when all the horror movies from my past creep up again :shock:

davedanson28 wrote:Well done you, great report and cracking photos! :clap:
Camping is ace, especially in the wilds! :D

I agree...it was my first wild camp so far away from any road....usually I try to be close to my car (sorts out the carrying problem) :D
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby Mountainlove » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:20 am

147cjl wrote:that is some walk ML :clap: kind of glad i missed out :lol: quality sheep picture though!

Lol you would have hated it...aww the sheep were brilliant...although what are they doing on top of a Munro?? The rabbits (never seen so many up the hills) were great as well...loved the eyes from this one...

DSC02456.JPG
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby gaffr » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:45 am

The reports about 'the longer wee tours' in the hills has us older folks reaching for our diaries for when it was that we too were tramping the Bens with tents and stoves!. :lol:
This tour is just a wee stroll. :lol:
For my wee tour I parked up at the bottom of the elbow road in '83 to walk over the four tops on the East side of the glen then jogged up/down back to my motor to pick-up my rucksack etc. Four of your group were visited before camping between Carn an Righ and the non listed top mam nan cairn then continueing with a visit to the other five tops and to finish on Cairnwell the following day.
Never set off without the old Primus stove..... well nowadays it would be a gas one....hot sweet tea is what I crave for on these trips. :)
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby madrock289 » Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:18 am

Awesome walk report and I must say I'm a little jealous about the overnighter. I opt for just a bivvy bag with a sleeping bag as my sleeping arrangements nowadays. Shame the weather has started getting cold now. My pal isn't ready for the winter yet so im waiting til next summer now :(
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby Sabbathstevie » Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:41 pm

Great report as ever ML, really enjoyed that one and wondered how long it would be before you joined us in the east! :clap:
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby rockhopper » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:10 pm

An interesting route ML and I'd agree that an overnight camp is a great way to get the best of this area :thumbup: Had my first ever wild camp up here last year and really enjoyed it - walked the 6 to the east, back to the car to get the overnight rucksack then headed west for the 8 similar to you. Instead though I camped on the Loch nan Eun shore whereas you took the direct SW route to Glas Tulaichean - if you're ever back :roll: , the lochside is a nice place to camp. I'd fully agree with you on the An Socach ascent - steep and relentless especially with a heavy rucksack - cheers :)
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby gaffr » Wed Sep 12, 2012 4:40 pm

Big rabbits?....Hare today and gone tomorrow now that is a hare raising story.?
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Re: The 8 Cairnwells–kissing a frog and what to do with a pr

Postby tomyboy73 » Wed Sep 12, 2012 7:00 pm

well done, pretty jealous as i read that, despite the wind and your suffering :lol: at least you`ve done it , you`ll feel more confident about planning more wild camps
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